It sounds bizarre now but there was a time when English football fans thought David Bentley could become the new David Beckham.
It was at Blackburn Rovers where Bentley first established his reputation as a potential England star. He scored a hat-trick against Manchester United in his first match for Rovers after joining the north-west outfit from Arsenal and played a starring role for the club in their best period of the past 20 years.
“I can see that (comparison),” former England boss Steve McClaren said when asked about the comparisons between Bentley and Beckham in May 2007. “His right foot is pretty similar to David’s. He’s got a great touch, great feel on the ball, and he can deliver that pass.
“But he’s still got a long way to go before he emulates anything that David (Beckham) has done.”
Two months earlier, Bentley scored the first ever goal in the refurbished Wembley Stadium – in a 3-3 draw against Italy’s Under-21s – to further enhance his burgeoning reputation.
He ended up making his senior England debut later in 2007 – but by the following year, his international career was over.
Bentley made his seventh and final appearance for the Three Lions in 2008 – the same year he left Blackburn for Tottenham – and his career rapidly went downhill shortly afterwards.
Following disastrous loan spells with Birmingham City, West Ham, FC Rostov and Blackburn, Bentley announced his retirement in 2014. He was just 29 years old.
The Peterborough-born winger later admitted that he fell out of love with football, disillusioned by how serious the game – and those involved in the game – took itself.
What Bentley is up to these days
But what’s he up to these days?
Well, it turns out that Bentley is doing pretty well for himself.
Per the Mirror, he’s invested his money in a variety of businesses and runs a restaurant called La Sala in Chigwell, Essex.
As well as other bars and restaurants, Bentley has invested in a commercial cleaning company and an accounting firm.
Now he is set to launch a ‘bespoke flooring company’ called GFF Bentley and Howell.
“My grandad had a flooring business for 25 years so I come from that stock and my dad worked as a carpet fitter for him so there is a history there,” Bentley told the Mirror. “Did I think when I was playing football that I’d have a wood floor business? No.
“I’ve wanted to branch out into different businesses since I finished playing, and I’ve got my mum and brother-in-law working for me and managing the showrooms, so it’s a family business.
“I loved football but I also love this side of things – it stimulates me. I was brought up to always be busy, always work hard and always do things you love, and I’m someone who thinks with my heart rather than my head.
“In my head I should have carried on playing football but my heart told me: ‘It’s time to go now’.
“I do everything like that, so everything I do is a passion project. And I’m in flooring because I love the people I’m working with. I just love it and I wake up energised. I’m still living the dream.”
He also wants to help young stars manage their money
Bentley also wants to advise the next generation of football superstars on how to make their money work for them for the rest of their lives – not just while they’re young.
“Players are mismanaged and they don’t have the large amounts of money people think they have,” Bentley added. “When you’re looking at global wealth, footballers are well down the list. They only have a 10-year period to earn their money and it’s something I’d like to help players out with because a lot of the time they are being misrepresented.
“It’s because of the lack of knowledge they have of managing money. I say to people that the years before I turned professional were my university years – all players are focused on then is making it as a footballer.
“So the money they earn when they’re playing has to last until they are 80-odd and a lot of players don’t think about that.
“They’re spending more than they should be spending given how their wages average out over the course of their lifetimes.
“They have to be managed properly and they have to take a personal view on it and keep control of their spending.”
Nobody would have predicted this a few years ago
Who would have imagined that Bentley would turn into such a mature, business-minded guy after hanging up his boots?
He seems a completely different person from the Bantersaurus who famously chucked a tub of water over his manager, Harry Redknapp, during a post-match interview in 2010.
More importantly, it’s great to see him enjoying life following such a disappointing end to his football career.